4 Habits of Gritty Leaders–Do You Have Them?

February 3, 2020

4 Habits of Gritty Leaders

Not everyone is born with grit. But everyone has the capability and the capacity to build it in themselves.

As a leader, people watch your every move, and they know if you’re faking it, whether you truly care, and they can certainly pick up on signs of fatigue. When they do, they lose confidence in the purpose and lose the path forward. 

Grit will help you avoid this situation and keep everyone—yourself and your team—moving in the right direction.

As a US Army Special Forces Soldier and longtime business executive, I’ve seen people from all walks of life build the grit they need by cultivating these four habits: mastery, resilience, emotional intelligence, and solitude.

Learn more in my LinkedIn Learning course "Grit: How Teams Persevere to Accomplish Great Goals."

Learn how to cultivate grit on your team in the course "Grit: How Teams Persevere to Accomplish Great Goals."

#1 Strive for mastery

Of course, leaders need to take the time to develop the skills and acquire the experience to be competent. That’s the minimum.

Gritty leaders take it to the next level, and are in constant pursuit of mastery. They’re curious. They’re voracious readers, listen to podcasts, take online courses, work with coaches, and pursue other means to continue their professional development. 

This takes sacrifice, because professional development happens at the expense of something else. But it’s worth it: grit is about persistence, determination, discipline, and sacrifice.

#2 Invite adversity

Grit also goes hand in hand with resiliency. It develops from getting knocked down, and getting back up again. You can refine grit over time with an ability to embrace, learn from, and overcome inevitable adversity.

Adversity also sparks insights because that’s when we face real tests. Those tests aren’t win or lose, but represent crucibles in which we develop that indomitable will. When we choose the ‘hard right’ versus the ‘easy wrong,’ it changes everything.

#3 Become more self-aware

Grit requires self-awareness in terms of where your strengths serve you, and where those same strengths don’t serve you (or others). For example, maybe your “energetic approach” has led to the current levels of success you’ve achieved. But being too energetic might mean you’re too quick to solve the problem rather than determine what caused the problem in the first place. 

Self-awareness also means you know your effect on other people and how they perceive you. Does your energy stimulate people; or does it turn them off?

Lastly, self-awareness means you have the self-discipline to regulate your emotions in a way that delivers a response that’s best for the team (versus satisfies an ego need.) This is hard, because you have to balance your integrity and desire to be as authentic and transparent as possible with the need to show “executive presence” in a way that keeps others inspired and on track. Sometimes you need to show your excitement. Other times it might not serve you (or your team) so well.

#4 Get comfortable with solitude

Leadership and solitude are not incongruent. So developing habits of a gritty leader also requires periodic solitude. 

You have to be able to create white space so you can think, look for cause—not just effects—weigh options, plan for contingencies, decide how you will decide, and craft messages that inspire people to full commitment versus mere compliance. 

Cultivating gritty habits isn’t easy, because it also means facing the possibility of setbacks. Yet… you must create the opportunity to step back, see the gap between where you are, and where you want to be. If you have the desire and drive to cultivate new habits over the long haul, you can use your grit to accomplish truly heroic aspirations.

Learn more about how to be a gritty leader in my course Grit: How Teams Persevere to Accomplish Great Goals

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